Many of you may think that a day of rain is not much to write home about, particularly as there has been some seriously wet weather in other parts of the country. But here at Naree it is a significant day.
Most dams here are dry and the only water available to animals is at the permanently flowing bores – house bore and Kenmere bore – and the large lake. There are also a few stock watering troughs we have maintained and kept full of water. Much animal activity, native and feral, is centred around these vital points. So we're getting a picture of how many feral animals, particularly pigs and goats, this property is supporting.
It is the last day of summer and this morning’s rising sun is blocked out by total cloud cover. At 8 o’clock rain starts to steadily fall, with dark ominous clouds rolling in from the west. Everywhere I look insects had taken to the wing and are flying up. Noisy chattering above draws my attention to hundreds of small birds – swallows, martins and woodswallows – filling the sky, darting and scooping, catching insects on the wing. It's a busy airspace with no collisions. I move our chairs out of the rain and under the veranda as the rain continues.
Back inside I go for a coffee. Through the office window resident honeyeaters and wagtails are seen fluffing their feathers and having a shower while perching on the fence outside. Soon we are experiencing heavy rain and water is spilling over the spouts. It is warm and humid and sticky flies are out and about.
As the day progresses, water fills low-lying tracks and claypans, many now visible from the house. By late afternoon the rain gauge indicates we've had 25mm. It's still raining but much steadier now. Plants are sparkling clean with all the dust washed off their foliage. Towards evening the lagoon starts to sing. There must be hundreds of frogs calling, the dominant sound being a melodious trill.
There are a few stray calls of other species – a Barking Marsh frog and a Spotted Marsh frog maybe; definitely a Green Tree frog calling amongst them. Peron’s Tree frog starts calling from the rainwater tank, its cackling call resonating loudly from within. These calls persist into the night.
By 9am next morning, Friday, the rain gauge has recorded 31mm rain. What a bonus! The road to Naree (from Bourke to Hungerford) is closed to traffic until further notice. We doubt we'd be able to drive to the mailbox, a ‘short’ 6.5km from the house, without getting bogged. We venture forth for a short walk on higher ground, checking out surrounding water-filled claypans, gutters and low-lying tracks. The ground is soft and sticky in places. Hairy processionary caterpillars have formed a line and are slowly marching along. Where are they going? Do they know?
Back at the house two small frogs are found jumping across the lawn – Crucifix frogs – unmistakeable colourings. They appear to have just emerged from their underground ‘burrows’. As I approach one its puffs itself up, looking larger than it really is. What delightful little creatures! After a few shots I place one on sandy ground under the bottlebrush (after I flick off a few ants). It quickly moves its back legs and starts burrowing. It stops with its lower half partially buried, the danger seemingly over.
As the land has dried out over the past three months under a scorching summer sun animals have gradually disappeared. Particularly noticeable are the birds. Water in the lagoon has reduced with evaporation exceeding input from bore water. The dozens of Black-tailed Native-hen and numerous other waterbirds have moved away. Only a few Glossy Ibis fly in each day now.
Other birds that persist and visit are Zebra Finch, Plum-headed Finch, Southern Whiteface, honeyeaters, parrots, Spotted Bowerbird, Willie Wagtail, Major Mitchell Cockatoo, Crested Pigeon, Magpie, Fairy-wrens and a few birds of prey. (When listed that is quite a few species!) The place is generally quiet and things have gone into survival mode. Then comes a day of good rain – life giving water. Temperatures should not be as severe now as the year progresses. The frogs and insects herald a new phase of life at Naree.